Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

A funny kind of spring? Not really...

Posted: April 2, 2013 at 22:32 pm Author: Mike Westgate

People say "funny kind of spring, isn't it?" to which I usually reply, "Not really, just like all of them, different from any other!" That's just the way it is in this part of the world.

Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) photographed in January 2013

So, this year started with some plants, such as the Persian Ironwood (pictured above in 2013), flowering a month or so earlier than usual. The same happened with one of the early Rhododendrons, appropriately called 'Christmas Cheer', flowering in November 'this' year!

Rhododendron ririei, taken in February 2013

Then, by the time some of my favourites were out, things had got quite topsy-turvy. In most years, the first large Rhododendron to flower is R. ririei (pictured above in 2013), but this year R. calophytum was out just before it.

Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva' photographed on 23 March 2012

Then there's the Magnolias: M. sprengeri 'Diva', our champion, was flowering by mid-March last year (pictured above in 2012); this year the buds are, sensibly, tight shut as I write on 26 March.

So that's a subjective view of the season, but we have a group of volunteers making detailed phenological records three times each week, what do they suggest?

Twelve of the plants we observe had been seen in flower by 26 March 2012, whereas only four have been seen this year.

One of those was Persian Ironwood, six days late, and the others were all wild flowers, between one and three weeks late. Snowdrops flowered about a week late on 13 January with lesser celandine at the end of February and Colt's foot on 25 March.

The first observation we make for woody plants is bud-burst and, so far, there is little pattern, with some such as hawthorn, being earlier than last year and others such as hazel, three weeks late.

So, how would I summarise? Spring is late overall - no surprise there, but it is really all over the place - as usual!